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Debbie M. Waldron v. James Milana; Scott Henderson; Sean Lynch; Thomas Skardinski; Detective Lamberton; City of Syracuse

September 10, 2012

DEBBIE M. WALDRON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JAMES MILANA; SCOTT HENDERSON; SEAN LYNCH; THOMAS SKARDINSKI; DETECTIVE LAMBERTON; CITY OF SYRACUSE, NEW YORK; CARMEL J. RIGGS; AND DANIELLE RIGGS, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Neal P. McCurn, Senior District Judge

Memorandum, Decision and Order

I. Introduction

Presently before the court in this civil rights action is a motion by defendants, James Milana, Scott Henderson, Sean Lynch, Thomas Skardinski, Detective Lamberton, and City of Syracuse, New York ("City Defendants"), for summary judgment against plaintiff, Debbie M. Waldron ("Plaintiff"), pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Dkt. No. 50. Plaintiff opposes the motion, and City Defendants reply. Decision is rendered is on the submitted papers, without oral argument.

II. Procedural Background

Plaintiff originally commenced this action against the City Defendants, the County of Onondaga, three Onondaga County Deputy Sheriffs, Carmel J. Riggs and Danielle Riggs,*fn1 alleging myriad claims stemming from events surrounding Plaintiff's arrest and detention for arson and reckless endangerment on or about January 17, 2009. The County Defendants thereafter answered the complaint, while the City Defendants filed a pre-answer motion to dismiss. The County Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings followed. Thereafter Plaintiff, when opposing the City Defendants' motion, sought leave to amend her complaint.

The County Defendants' motion was granted in its entirety, thereby eliminating them as defendants to this action. The City Defendants' motion to dismiss was granted in part and denied in part, and the Plaintiff's motion to amend the complaint was granted in part and denied in part. Plaintiff was directed to file her amended complaint in accordance with this court's December 7, 2010 Memorandum, Decision and Order ("MDO"). See Dkt. No. 30.

Plaintiff thereafter filed her amended complaint, which included the following claims against the City Defendants, consistent with this court's MDO. First, Plaintiff alleges claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against all individually named defendant City of Syracuse police officers for violations of Plaintiff's right to be free from unreasonable seizure under the Fourth Amendment; the companion New York State common law tort claim for false arrest/detention/imprisonment against those same defendants; and a vicarious liability claim under New York State common law against the City of Syracuse ("the City") for their employees' false arrest/detention/imprisonment of Plaintiff. Also pending are § 1983 claims against the defendant City police officers for violations of Plaintiff's rights under the Fourth Amendment and the companion New York State common law tort claim for malicious prosecution against those same defendants as well as a vicarious liability claim under New York State law against the City for its employees' malicious prosecution of Plaintiff. Plaintiff also alleges a § 1983 claim against defendants Milana, Henderson and Skardinski for failure to intervene to prevent the false arrest/detention/imprisonment and malicious prosecution of Plaintiff in violation of her rights under the Fourth Amendment. Finally, Plaintiff alleges a New York common law tort claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress against defendant, Lynch as well as a vicarious liability claim under New York State law against the City for Lynch's intentional infliction of emotional distress of Plaintiff.

By their motion for summary judgment, City Defendants now seek judgment in their favor dismissing all of Plaintiff's causes of action. Principally, City Defendants argue that there is no question of material fact as to the existence of probable cause for Plaintiff's arrest and prosecution, and therefore, Plaintiff's state law and § 1983 claims against them for false arrest and malicious prosecution must be dismissed. In the alternative, City Defendants argue the individually named officers are entitled to qualified immunity on these claims. Also, City Defendants argue for the first time that Plaintiff's state law claims for false arrest and intentional infliction of emotional distress are time barred.

Plaintiff counters*fn2 that there are factual issues regarding the existence of probable cause. Plaintiff concedes, through her attorney's affidavit, that her state law claims for false arrest and intentional infliction of emotional distress are time barred, but argues that encompassed in her first cause of action is a Fourteenth Amendment claim against Lynch for violation of her right to substantive due process.

III. Legal Standard

A motion for summary judgment shall be granted "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). The movant has the initial burden to show the court why it is entitled to summary judgment. See Salahuddin v. Goord, 467 F.3d 263, 272 (2d Cir.2006) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986)). If the movant meets its burden, the burden shifts to the non-movant to identify evidence in the record that creates a genuine issue of material fact. See id., at 273 (citing Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S. Ct. 1348 (1986)).

When deciding whether a material issue of fact is in dispute, the court is cognizant that "[a] fact is material when it might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law." Tracy v. Freshwater, 623 F.3d 90, 95 (2d Cir.2010) (internal citation omitted). Also, a material fact is genuinely in dispute "if 'the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'" Bessemer Trust Co., N.A. v. Branin, 618 F.3d 76, 85 (2d Cir.2010) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986)).

"In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the district court may rely on any material that would be admissible or usable at trial." Major League Baseball Props., Inc. v. Salvino, Inc., 542 F.3d 290, 309 (2d Cir.2008) (internal quotation and citation omitted). Finally, when the court is deciding a motion for summary judgment, it must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences in the non-movant's favor. See Vermont Teddy Bear Co., Inc. v. 1-800 Beargram Co., 373 F.3d 241, 244 (2d Cir.2004) (citing Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157, 90 S. Ct. 1598 (1970)).

Implied in the above-stated burden-shifting standard is the fact that, where a nonmoving party fails to adequately respond to a motion for summary judgment, a district court has no duty to perform an independent review of the record to find proof of a factual dispute. See Amnesty Am. v. Town of W. Hartford, 288 F.3d 467, 470 (2d Cir.2002) (citations omitted). For this reason, the Court may enforce Local Rule 7.1(a)(3) by deeming facts set forth in a moving party's statement to have been admitted where the nonmoving party has failed to properly respond to that statement. See N.D.N.Y. R. 7.1(a)(3). See also Figueroa v. Tri-City Highway Prods., Inc., No. 08-CV-868, 2010 WL 3635247, at *2 (N.D.N.Y. Sept.10, 2010) (citations omitted). Pursuant to Local Rule 7.1(a)(3), the nonmoving party must file a response to the moving party's Statement of Material Facts, which admits or denies each of the moving party's factual assertions in matching numbered paragraphs, and supports any denials with a specific citation to the record where the factual issue arises. N.D.N.Y. L.R. 7.1(a)(3).*fn3

IV. Factual Background

The following facts are disputed unless otherwise noted.

At approximately 6:10 p.m. on January 17, 2009, a fire broke out at 203 Rowland Street in the City of Syracuse, New York. Multiple police officers, including City police as well as Onondaga County deputy sheriffs, ...


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